You Don’t Have to Always Hustle to Be Successful

I read a blog this morning about the behaviors of emotionally strong individuals.  Initially I asked, “what is emotional strength?”  Emotional strength is the ability to experience positive feelings.  There are some studies to suggest that certain personality traits are linked to greater emotional stability, an indicator for emotional strength (Guswell & Ruch, 2012). A particular study by Guswell and Ruch (2012) suggested there are innate characteristics that can either support or hinder a person’s ability to manage emotions.  In other words some personalities have an easier time managing emotions and remaining positive.  Although research claims it may be easier for some more than others it is not likely that only certain individuals with certain personality traits are allowed happiness.  All people are allowed happiness and all individuals can have a happy disposition despite character, experience, or previous thought patterns.

Individuals can learn emotional strength.  If you struggle with something in life you can learn to improve; you can learn to emotionally improve, as well. Your emotions do not control you.  Your thinking does not control you.  (It seems that way most of the time because turning “off” thinking and emotions is challenging).  The source behind the thinking and the emotions is YOU and the one in control of you is YOU!  I understand my posts talk a lot about choosing to be happy positive and I understand this can be very frustrating to most.  But, that truly is the issue; choice.  How you think and how you feel is up to you!  It is that simple.  The hard part is applying the skills, tools, and techniques to make that choice stick.

There are lots of tools and behaviors one can apply to increase emotional strength.  One behavior that stood out to me as a read the blog on emotional strength was ,”They (emotionally strong people) are not afraid of slowing down”.  This really stuck with me and caused me to ponder.

Emotional strength equals success.  Early research clearly demonstrated that people with an ability to evaluate their emotions, identify their emotions, and rationally handle their emotions are better able to reach and achieve goals (Allport & Allport, 1921).  To consider that emotionally strong people can slow down and relax challenged the belief that successful people are “go-getters” and “busy-bees”. Success coincides with work.  So many of us are chasing dreams, aspirations, and goals.  Motivation is inspired and we are challenged to keep going, keep pushing, and work daily to achieve success.  Then why is slowing down a sign of success and emotional strength?  How does rest and slowing down accomplish goals?

When we slow down we can LIVE.  It is so easy to be caught up in pursuing goals and achieving success and to lose sight of daily life and the little miracles that occur.  I am no exception.  My goals and aspirations in life require me to have daily goals and a daily plan.  The drive to be successful causes me to become acutely aware of my daily goals and I can spend minutes of my day, hours of my day planning, working, building, doing, and analyzing.  What happens if I just stop?  What happens if I just slow down and approach the day as it comes?

When we can slow down we are left with seconds, minutes, hours, even days for freedom and to live.

  • Slowing down means we can be content with our present moment and our present blessings.
  • Slowing down means we can be thankful for what we have.
  •  Slowing down allows us to experience love and support of family and friends.
  • Slowing down means taking a break.
  • Slow down means we have time to do something else (perhaps read a book, talk with a friend, or sit in silence).

Today I challenge you to stop!  Stop planning and stop working.  Take time away from your “to-do” list and do something else.  You do not need to always be working on something and you do not need to always be focusing on your goals.  I challenge you to take a step back, slow down, and enjoy the moment and the people you are with.  When you slow down to live you will restore your heart, your brain, and your soul.  This renewal of mind, body, and spirit will help you achieve goals, accomplish tasks, and lead you to success.

 

 

References:

Allport, F. H., & Allport, G. W.  (1921). Personality traits: Their classification and measurement. The Journal of Abnormal Psychology and Social Psychology, 16(1), 6-40.

Guswell, A. & Ruch, W. (2012).  Are only emotional strengths emotional?  Character strength and disposition to positive emotions.  Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 4(2), 218-239.

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The Mental Health Issue You May Be Ignoring

May is Mental Health Awareness Month.  Most people think that mental health relates to depression, anxiety, or being “crazy”.  However mental health issues can and will impact everyone.  Yep, everyone has mental health problems.  Even you!  Do you get stressed?  I bet you do.  Even good things in life, graduation, moving, marriage, or having a baby are considered stressful.  Stress is a mental health problem because it will impact your emotional health, your physical health, your mental health, and your behavior.

Please see the article below for more information on why stress is considered a mental health issue and what you can do about it.  I was going to say it but Mental Health America said it so well I thought I would share it with you all today.

Everyone has stress. It is a normal part of life. You can feel stress in your body when you have too much to do or when you haven’t slept well. You can also feel stress when you worry about things like your job, money, relationships, or a friend or family member who is ill or in crisis. In response to these strains your body automatically increases blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, metabolism, and blood flow to you muscles. This response is intended to help your body react quickly and effectively to a high-pressure situation. However, when you are constantly reacting to stressful situations without making adjustments to counter the effects, you will feel stress which can threaten your health and well-being.

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According to the APA’s Stress in America study, nearly 70% of Americans experience physical and mental symptoms of stress, but only 37% think they are doing very well at managing stress.

Tips for Reducing or Controlling Stress
If you are feeling stressed, there are steps you can take to feel better. As you read the following suggestions, remember that conquering stress will not come from a half-hearted effort, nor will it come overnight. It will take determination, persistence and time. Some suggestions may help immediately, but if your stress level doesn’t seem to improve, it may require more attention and/or lifestyle changes.

Be realistic. If you feel overwhelmed by some activities (yours and/or your family’s), learn to say NO! Eliminate an activity that is not absolutely necessary. You may be taking on more responsibility than you can or should handle. If you meet resistance, give reasons why you’re making the changes. Be willing to listen to other’s suggestions and be ready to compromise.

Shed the “superman/superwoman” urge. No one is perfect, so don’t expect perfection from yourself or others. Ask yourself, “What really needs to be done?” How much can I do? Is the deadline realistic? What adjustments can I make?” Don’t hesitate to ask for help if you need it.

Meditate. Just ten to twenty minutes of quiet reflection may bring relief from chronic stress as well as increase your tolerance to it. Use the time to listen to music, relax and try to think of pleasant things or nothing.

Visualize. Use your imagination and picture how you can manage a stressful situation more successfully.  Whether it’s a business presentation or moving to a new place, many people feel visual rehearsals boost self-confidence and enable them to take a more positive approach to a difficult task.

Take one thing at a time. For people under tension or stress, their day-to-day workload can sometimes seem unbearable. The best way to cope with this feeling of being overwhelmed is to take one task at a time. Make a list of things you need to get done and start with one task. Once you accomplish that task, choose the next one. The positive feeling of “checking off” tasks is very satisfying. It will motivate you to keep going.

Exercise. Regular exercise is a popular way to relieve stress. Twenty to thirty minutes of physical activity benefits both the body and the mind.

Hobbies. Take a break from your worries by doing something you enjoy. Whether it’s gardening or painting, schedule time to indulge your interest.

Share your feelings. A conversation with a friend lets you know that you are not the only one having a bad day, caring for a sick child or working in a busy office. Stay in touch with friends and family. Ask them how they have dealt with a similar situation that may be “stressing you out.” Let them provide love, support and guidance. Don’t try to cope alone.

Be flexible! If you find you’re meeting constant opposition in either your personal or professional life, rethink your position or strategy. Arguing only intensifies stressful feelings. Make allowances for other’s opinions and be prepared to compromise. If you are willing to be accommodating, others may meet you halfway. Not only will you reduce your stress, you may find better solutions to your problems.

Go easy with criticism. You may expect too much of yourself and others. Try not to feel frustrated, disappointed or even “trapped” when another person does not measure up. The “other person” may be a coworker, spouse, or child whose behavior you are trying to change or don’t agree with. Avoid criticisms about character, such as “You’re so stubborn,” and try providing constructive suggestions for how someone might do something differently.

Where to Get Help
If you think that you or someone you know may be under more stress than just dealing with a passing difficulty, it may be helpful to talk with your doctor, clergy person, or employee assistance professional. They may suggest you visit with a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or other qualified counselor.

In crisis? If you or someone you know is in crisis, seek help immediately. Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach a 24-hour crisis center or dial 911 for immediate assistance.

Ideas to consider when talking with a professional
• List the things which cause stress and tension in your life.
• How does this stress and tension affect you, your family and your job?
• Can you identify the stress and tensions in your life as short or long term?
• Do you have a support system of friends/family that will help you make positive changes?
• What are your biggest obstacles to reducing stress?
• What are you willing to change or give up for a less stressful and tension-filled life?
• What have you tried already that didn’t work for you?

For more on Mental Health America head over to: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/stress-coping-everyday-problems

Remember stress is something that everyone experiences.  Those that may not appear so stressed out may have learned ways to manage it.  Stress can be managed.  There is help and there is hope.  You do not have to be controlled by stress and overwhelmed.  You can live relaxed and calm even if there a million things going on.  Take things day by day and do something today that will make you smile and relax.

Get Over It…

“Get over it” is the worst thing we can say to ourselves or say to each other. I have heard various versions of this phrase working with families and individuals. Family members and loved ones may tell a person with upset emotions to “cheer up”, “get over it”, or “move on”. Although it is used to motivate or encourage the upset individual, these phrases have a way of shaming as well. These words can create greater individual upset and distress.

I am here to tell you to be upset. Be angry. Be sad. Be frustrated. Yell. Cry. Isolate. Whatever you feel is 100% OK. A mature and well-functioning person should be able to regulate emotions. In other words it is average for people to experience emotional upset but not sacrifice relationships or jobs and not cause harm to self or others. However when feelings are not managed correctly relationships and jobs may suffer and there may be emotional or physical harm to others. Rather to avoid feelings and try to “get over it” it is best to feel and deal with it!

Some emotions and situations are very difficult to just “get over”. A depressed person cannot get up and go enjoy activities. An anxious person cannot stop worrying. It is a shame we have made feelings such an insignificant matter. Feelings are very important and I am here to say, “You don’t have to get over yet”!

When feelings are shamed and ultimately suppressed the feeling only grows and gets bigger. Imagine an area rug in the middle of a hardwood floor. The floor around the rug is dusty so you sweep the dust under the rug. This is what happens when people are not allowed to express or feel their emotions. The dust is still there. You may try to ignore feelings but they are still there. Continue to sweep the dust under the rug and eventually the rug will no longer be able to contain the dirt and the dust will be exposed. Sadly when the dust is exposed it is a much bigger mess. The same is true for feelings. If feelings are suppressed long enough they will struggle to be maintained, the feelings will explode, and there will be emotional and perhaps physical harm to self and others.

Although the feeling is ok, feelings become dangerous, scary, and unmanageable when they are not addressed. If you have a loved one with upset emotions acknowledge them and let them know you see how they feel. Let them know that what they feel is ok and they can take their time to feel better. Let them know you are there to help them come up with ways and explore ways to make the feelings decrease. Tell them you see them and you see how they feeling.

If you have upset emotions feeling them may seem overwhelming. Perhaps you feel if you start crying you will never stop crying. Or perhaps you feel if you no longer worry you will no longer be in control. Remember the feeling does not control you. You CONTROL the feeling. You can choose to feel sad and worried and you can choose to feel happy and relaxed. You have the right to do something to improve your situation. Try talking to someone. Sometimes simply verbalizing how you feel is enough to feel better. Write down how you feel. This will help you identify how you feel but also helps express any thoughts that are contributing to the upset.

Feelings are like a wave in the ocean. At times they will appear very large but eventually the wave crashes and the water is calm again. The same is true for emotions. At times they will seem very large but eventually the feeling will decrease and things will be calm again. Feelings come and go. You are not bound to feeling depressed, anxious, angry, stressed, and scared if you deal with feelings rather than ignore them, and eventually you will “get over it!”

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Get Over It – Your Mental Health is Just as Important as Your Physical Health

It is sad to say that a stigma remains regarding mental health. I have been in the mental health field for over 10 years and it is unfortunate that many continue to see mental and behavioral health conditions as shameful. The stigma associated with mental illness and asking for help continues to shame people struggling with mental illness and keeps many more from seeking treatment and help. We must put an end to this.

stigma(Photo from Personality Disorders Awareness Network – visit on Facebook).

There are conditions of every single body system. There are diseases of the skin, hair, bones, muscles, heart, lungs, blood, kidneys, liver, stomach, and joints. People are more likely to seek treatment for these conditions due to physical discomfort and limited or decreased mobility. Just like the body can be allficted with illness and disease so can the brain. Mental illness can decrease attention, concentration, skew thinking, and will cause uncomfortable and distressing feelings. However people are less likely to seek help when they “feel” bad. There is a societal belief we need to, “suck it up buttercup”, or that we need to “pull up by the bootstraps and keep going”. When people are unable to do this they feel increased shame, failure, and hopelessness.

Life can be really sad and hard at times. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has had terrible events, circumstances, and situations. Granted each person’s personal experiences are unique, but the bottom line is that humans will suffer from time to time. These events and experiences may bring extreme sadness, fear, anxiety, stress, and anger. These events can interfere with your ability to sleep, eat, or work like you used to. Your situation, past or present, can make think there is no hope, you are worthless, and that you are weak.  This is not true!

Societal expectations make asking for help difficult.   We Americans are a people of hardwork. We spent our early years working hard to build homes and grow families and communities. People fought hard and to struggle was a way of life.  Hard work does not mean you are required to feel sadness, anger, and hopelessness.  Hard work means you may have confront issues to overcome the things that are causing your emotional upset.

It is also possible that people feared treatment in those days. I am sad to admit that the history of the field of psychology is bothersome. People with mental illness were not treated well and treatment was long, costly, and painful. People were treated differently by their community due to labels and misconceptions about mental health. The field of psychology has come a long way and treatment is now helpful, beneficial, supportive, and healing. However it is still difficult for many to seek treatment in times of need. Not only are people afraid to seek treatment but they are afraid to admit they are hurting. They fear the judgment they will receive for not being able to manage emotions.

Sometimes, though, we can become overwhelmed. Things in life can be too hard to overcome. There are times when emotions become so big it is difficult to know how to handle them. Perhaps the coping skills you have used before to help you are not able to reduce the upset feelings now. This not mean you are flawed, rather it means that what has worked in the past is not working now.  All adults need to learn to deal with situations differently at all stages of life. Seeking help for emotional upset is only a way of learning a new way to cope.

Not only can situations in life and circumstances cause overwhelming emotional upset but there are times when emotional and behavioral upset develops due to illness and disease.   Remember the brain can have an illness or a disease just like any other part of the body. When the brain isn’t working properly due to illness and disease feelings are harder to handle and behaviors will change.  Do we judge people for having cancer?  No we want to help them fight and survive the disease.  People with mental illness need support and help to overcome their disease as well.

It is important to know you are not alone. It may seem like you are alone and it feels like no one can relate to your situation and your feelings. Please know everyone has felt the same way you have at some point in their life.

Know that you are not the only one feeling anxiety, fear, worry, sadness, loneliness, frustration, hopelessness, and anger. Mental health conditions are not rare. Millions of people suffer from mental illness.

You do not have to suffer alone. There is help. Talk to someone you trust. Tell someone how you feel.

If it is hard to say what you feel and it is scary to open up to others try journaling how you feel. The best way to feel better is to open up and get it out.

I use this analogy with clients all the time. Having a mental health condition can feel like you are carrying around a huge, heavy bag of trash. The trash smells bad and it is so heavy it causes exhaustion and makes work and other activities harder.  Maybe you are so used to living your life carrying this bag of trash it seems easier to keep going then to let it go. Or maybe you don’t know how to let the trash go. It can be scary to let go.  Letting go requires a change.  Letting go means that things will feel differently, perhaps better, however when you are used to feeling badly it can seem easier to stay stuck there.  At least if you keep going the way you are, you know what to expect.  To feel better you need to go through and take out the trash little by little. You do that when you talk about how you feel or share what is on your mind.  It does not mean you need to reveal all your secrets, rather simply saying how you feel can lighten your load.  If you cannot identify how you feel gathering support can lighten the load.  Each time you do this, the trash gets lighter and lighter.

Please remember that help is always available. If you do not have a friend or family member you can trust to open up to find a therapist. Do not be ashamed by asking for help. Asking for help takes courage. You see, asking for help requires making a change and doing something really scary.  Asking for help makes you a survivor. People with cancer do not sit at home and wait to die. No, people with cancer are called survivors because they seek treatment to overcome the disease. The same is true for anyone with mental health seeking treatment. Rather than sitting around feeling horrible you seek help and treatment to survive. Reclaim your life and your right to be happy and live in peace.

* Stephanie is a Masters level therapist and licensed professional counselor in addition to being a near psychologist (pending completion of dissertation). Please contact Stephanie for more information on finding help and how you can start feeling better today.